D. C. Jarvis

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DeForest Clinton Jarvis (March 15, 1881 – August 18, 1966) was an American physician from Vermont. He is best known for his writings on the subject of folk medicine. He recommended a mixture of raw apple cider vinegar and honey that has variously been called switchel or honegar, as a health tonic.[1][2] He promoted the use of vinegar to keep the acidity of the body more acidic than alkaline, which he believed treated medical problems like burns and varicose veins.[3]


Jarvis was born in Plattsburgh, New York, into a fifth-generation Vermont family and grew up in Burlington, Vermont. His parents were George Jarvis and Abbie Vincent. He graduated from the University of Vermont Medical College in 1904, and began practicing medicine in Barre, Vermont, in 1909.

Jarvis married Pearl Macomber, and they had a daughter, Sylvia Jarvis Smith (b. June 29, 1914, d. December 27, 2009),[4] She graduated from the University of Vermont in 1936.[5][6] Jarvis's hobbies included making jewelry and playing the cello, and he managed a children's orchestra for 22 years.[7]

Jarvis's 1958 book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health[2] was on The New York Times Best Seller list for two years, ultimately selling over one million copies, more than 245,000 copies in a single year, and was still in print as of 2002. Wrote one reviewer, "Pliny, the ancient Roman originator of the doctrine of signatures, used honey and vinegar to cleanse the system and promote good health. D. C. Jarvis, M.D. in Folk Medicine has re-popularized the use of honey and apple cider vinegar in modern times."[8]

He died at the Girouard Nursing Home in South Barre, Vermont, at the age of 85. The cause of death was a chronic kidney infection, coupled with cerebral thrombosis and arteriosclerosis.[9]

After his death in 1966, Jarvis's office was dismantled and shipped to the Shelburne Museum, where it was reconstructed and is still displayed, as an example of a small-town Vermont doctor's office.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

In 1960, copies of Jarvis' book Folk Medicine were seized by the Food and Drug Administration in connection with sales of "Honegar".[10][11] Physician Louis Lasagna noted that:

In Albany, New York, FDA agents seized $60,000 worth of "Honegar," a mixture of honey and apple cider vinegar, because its labeling failed to bear adequate directions for treating nearly fifty diseases and conditions for which "Honegar" was intended to be used. Seized with the mixture were reprints and quotations from Jarvis' book. (Jarvis was apparently uninvolved in the commercial manufacture of the product.)[12]

Jarvis promoted the idea that apple cider vinegar and honey could be used to cure arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and many others. Medical authorities dismissed these claims as nonsense and quackery.[13][14][15][16]


  • Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health (1958). New York: Holt. ISBN 978-1447446378
  • Arthritis and Folk Medicine (1960). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.


  1. ^ D.C. Md Jarvis (May 12, 1985). Folk Medicine: A New England Almanac of Natural Health Care from a Noted Vermont Country Doctor. Fawcett Publications. ISBN 978-0-449-20880-9.
  2. ^ a b "Folk Medicine". Time magazine. December 28, 1959. Archived from the original on December 9, 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-24. Dr. Jarvis prescribes vinegar (always the apple-cider variety, raw and unfiltered) for all comers. The vinegar can be taken straight or diluted in water. But for maximum efficacy, he insists that it be mixed with honey—a sort of sweet-'n'-sour, yang-and-yin combination.
  3. ^ Fry, Ann Lyons (2003). The Vermont Encyclopeida. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England. p. 170. ISBN 1-58465-086-9.
  4. ^ "Vermost Quarterly: 1930s 1940s". The University of Vermont. 2003-12-31. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  5. ^ Sylvia Jarvis Smith. "Of Severed Fingers, Silicosis, and Stethoscopes". Jcrows.com. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "The UVM Connection > Distinguished Service Award Winners". The University of Vermont. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  7. ^ "Dr. Jarvis's Great Switchel Revival". Vermont Life. 1960. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  8. ^ The Natural Farmer, Vol. 2, No. 45, p. 14 Summer, 2000
  9. ^ "Dr. D.C. Jarvis, Author of 'Folk Medicine,' Dead; Vermont Physician's '58 Book Sold Over a Million He Stressed Curative Value of Vinegar and Honey". The New York Times. August 19, 1966. Retrieved 2010-02-24. Dr. D. C. Jarvis of this community, author of the best-selling book 'Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health,' died today at a nursing home in South Barre. His age was 85. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage earlier this year.
  10. ^ Kleinfeld, Vincent A; Kaplan, Alan H. (1965). Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act: Judicial and Administrative Record, 1961-1964. Commerce Clearing House. pp. 88-90
  11. ^ Barrett, Stephen; Herbert, Victor. (1994). The Vitamin Pushers: How the "Health Food" Industry is Selling America a Bill of Goods. Prometheus Books. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-87975-909-4 "D. C. Jarvis, M.D. (1881-1966) wrote that body alkalinity was the principle threat to American health and that honey and apple cider were antidotes. False claims in his book were the basis for an FDA seizure of a product called Honegar."
  12. ^ Lasagna, Louis. (1962). The Doctors' Dilemmas. Harper. p. 306
  13. ^ Clar, Mimi. (1961). "Honegar" and Folk Medicine. Western Folklore 20 (3): 203.
  14. ^ Lamont-Havers, R. (1963). Arthritis Quackery. The American Journal of Nursing 63 (3): 92-95.
  15. ^ Sechrist, William. (1970). Dynamics of Wellness. Wadsworth Publishing Company. p. 442
  16. ^ Schaller, Warren Edward; Carroll, Charles Robert. (1976). Health, Quackery & the Consumer. Saunders. p. 133. ISBN 978-0721679495

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